2006 Archive

Acura Dealership | U of M Program | First Tennessee | Rhodes Theater | Humane Society | Farnsworth

Acura of Memphis building new dealership with national prototype design
Memphis Business Journal - November 17, 2006 - by John Scruggs

Acura of Memphis is building a $12 million, 64,000-square-foot showroom at 2557 Ridgeway that will set the bar for future Acura dealerships across the U.S. Tameron Automotive Group, which owns Acura of Memphis and Honda dealerships in Birmingham and Daphne, Ala., purchased the 15-acre site in January 2006 for $2.5 million. Dan Umansky, president of Acura of Memphis, says this investment in a first-class facility will echo the quality of the Acura brand. "We're the first in the country to build a second-generation Acura dealership, and we think it's a great investment," he says.

Memphis contractor Grinder Taber Grinder has started work on the property, which sits on Ridgeway north of 385. The new dealership is expected to be completed in the summer of 2007, when Acura of Memphis will move from its current location at 2680 Mt. Moriah. Brett Grinder, vice president with Grinder Taber Grinder, says the new facility will have three buildings -- one for new vehicle sales and service, another for pre-owned vehicle sales and a separate detailing and car wash facility. Grinder Taber Grinder recently completed the new Lexus of Memphis dealership across Ridgeway from the Acura site. "We flew to Chicago to meet with the Acura designer and see the furniture and other things that would be going in the space," Grinder says. "They indicated to us that this is going to be a top-of-the-line dealership for Acura." J. Wise Smith, principal with JWSA Associated Architects, is designing the new dealership and says it will be the first Acura dealership in the U.S. incorporating Acura's prototype design. "It's a leading edge design," Smith says. "It's more like a boutique hotel than a dealership."

User-friendly features for the new dealership include a movie theater, separate from the rest of the customer service waiting area, a business-style lounge and a French-style coffee house with fresh baked cookies and soft drinks for customers. "The interior will have extremely high level finishes throughout," Smith says, "including granite counters and floors, custom wood doors and partitions and etched glass." Smith says Acura is continuing to position itself as a driver's luxury brand, similar to that of BMW, Lexus and Infiniti. "They're placing themselves in that same category," he says. "They purposefully bought the lot across the street from the Lexus dealership." Grinder says there are some special considerations associated with construction on a car dealership. "There are specifics about how to install auto lifts and alignment pits," he says. "Exhaust systems in the service shop will remove carbon dioxide from the space." Grinder says work on installing a water main and other city services on the private road is under way and upon completion they will use the road as a staging area for the remainder of the project.


U of M in beginning stages of starting degree program for construction managers

Memphis Business Journal - October 13, 2006 - by Gwynn Bradley

The University of Memphis is building a degree in construction management that will combine business and engineering classes. Previously, the college relied on Southwest Tennessee Community College to offer the lower level courses and allowed students to transfer for the final two years and receive a bachelor's in professional studies from the U of M. But in an effort to control the program's structure and class material, the U of M has put its degree on hiatus to develop its own entire construction management degree.

Beginning in the spring, a committee will focus on the needs of the degree, plan 12-15 courses and find professors to teach them. The university has not yet determined when the program will start. The program will be part of the school's University College department, which lets students take classes from a variety of fields to address a need for diverse knowledge. At other institutions, typical construction management degrees require courses in scheduling, methods and design. The degrees also require a focus on sciences such as soil evaluation and physics, as well as business practices like business administration and law. A degree is vital, according to both educators and contractors. "People in the construction management position need to know the key elements like surveying and estimation," says Broderick Nichols, assistant dean of U of M's University College. Without a grip on these skills, chances at a job are limited; without credentials, the likelihood of getting a job may not be as strong, he says. But, until the U of M finishes the development of the degree, options for Memphians are sparse.

For students wanting to study the dynamics of management and the science of construction, the only opportunity in Memphis is a certificate program offered by Christian Brothers University for civil engineering majors. It emphasizes accounting and contracts, but lacks the depth of a bachelor's degree program. For a tailored degree delving into the varying aspects and complexities of the field, students must go to a college outside the Memphis area. The closest colleges that offer such degrees are University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Southern Mississippi. Justin Grinder, vice president and project manager at Grinder, Taber & Grinder, Inc., has a degree in civil engineering and says that no major construction company hires new employees without a degree related to the industry. "It's highly valuable," he says. "It helps with the day-to-day understanding of the job, how to do construction, the bidding and estimation."

A construction manager must be the go-between for architects, electricians, clients and subcontractors. Thus, they must understand each profession involved in any construction project. And, as the construction industry grows, the demand for qualified construction mangers will only increase. "Only 50% of the demand for degrees is being met by universities," says Michael Holland, executive vice president for the American Council for Construction Education. The resulting benefits of a degree then are not just preparedness, but five or six job offers with an average starting salary of $47,000, he says. Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC exclusively hires managers with a construction management or project management degree, regularly interviewing students at Auburn University, says vice president Richard Meena. To him, it is more than desirable; it is necessary. "It opens the door to understanding what we do," Meena says.

New signage installed at First Tennessee building

Memphis Business Journal - October 27, 2006

First Tennessee's new Downtown signage is in place after a complex and coordinated installation process. Frank Balton Signs of Memphis and Mitchell Signs of Meridian, Miss., partnered on the fabrication and installation of the signs on the 23-story high-rise. Grinder Taber & Grinder installed the structural supports for the light panels and 16-foot high letters, and Liles Engineering Design Consultants handled the electrical work.

"This project is very important, as it permanently changes the Memphis skyline," said Kristi Hodges, senior account executive for Mitchell Signs, in a statement. "For years to come this building will be photographed and become a piece of the history of the City of Memphis." The most important part of the project was designing the signage so that it appeared to be part of the existing building. Working with the Memphis Police Department and the City of Memphis, the team installed the four sides during 22 helicopter flights to the top of the building, which is located at 165 Madison.

Rhodes College theater doubles its size

Memphis Business Journal - August 23, 2006


Rhodes College president William E. Troutt will host a dedication for the expansion of the school's McCoy Theatre on Sept. 7. Originally converted from the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority house, the theater underwent an expansion from 8,400 square feet to 17,000 feet. The $2.6 million expansion began in August 2005. The expansion features a new theater space called the McCoy Studio, which is slightly smaller than the main performance hall. Its primary function will be instruction in theater production and acting classes. The studio can be used as an after-hours rehearsal space when a production is running in the main theater.

The expansion also includes new office suites for theater faculty, a new costume storage and sewing room, one new classroom, a new rehearsal hall, upgraded lighting for the performance hall, new air conditioning and heating systems, storage room for stage props and set-building materials, and a new entrance patio and roofed arcade. The theater was named after the late Harry McCoy, a Memphis real estate developer. The Harry B. McCoy Foundation funded the original and current renovations. Norfolk, Va.-based Hanbury, Evans, Wright, Vlattas and Co. were the project architects, while Memphis-based Grinder, Taber, Grinder Inc. was the general contractor.

New Humane Society shelter designed to fit in with Shelby Farms surroundings
Memphis Business Journal - July 14, 2006 - by John Scruggs

Having outgrown its home on Central, the Memphis Shelby County Humane Society will soon have a new $5.5 million facility at Shelby Farms. Construction on the 23,000-square-foot building is under way and should be completed by the end of 2006. Presently working out of three spaces in Midtown, the Humane Society will be able to offer better service to the community with the new building, which roughly triples the size of its present space.

The Shelby County Commission donated a 4-acre parcel at Shelby Farms to the organization in 2001, but fund-raising to pay for the new facility has been the focus since getting the site. The group's Dream Fund Building Campaign is well under way with donations already totaling around $2.75 million. Memphis Shelby County Humane Society executive director Ginger Morgan says the organization is in desperate need of the new facility. "We're in three buildings right now, one on Philadelphia, an administration building on Cox and the Central space," Morgan says. "We've been out of space for a while." The Humane Society will soon have plenty of room in its new first-class facility.

Grinder Taber Grinder was hired to build the new shelter, and TRO/The Ritchie Organization designed the facility. "This is going to provide a boost for them to be in this space with more functions that can meet the needs of their clients, be they canine, feline or human," says Stephen Berger, managing principal of TRO's Memphis office. TRO designer Ed Scharff says the Humane Society asked him to design a building that would improve the experience people have when looking for a new pet. Scharff's solution: make the new facility more of a retail experience that showcases the animals, moving them out of the Humane Society and into homes as quickly as possible. The spacious, farm-style building has high ceilings and a long spine bringing in lots of natural light. "Since the building was going into Shelby Farms, we knew it ought to fit in with the surrounding area," Scharff says of the structure, which sports arched metal roofing along the top elevation. "The benefits of the large holding areas and on-site veterinary services are for the animals." Scharff says the new facility is going to put the Humane Society way ahead of where it has been to date.

In addition to more inside space for animal housing, veterinary care and training, Morgan says fresh air will be a noticeable change. "We're also going to have community space and some classrooms," she says. The on-site veterinary clinic will save the organization money because all current veterinary services must be outsourced, which has been a considerable expense for the non-profit. Though Morgan was not serving as executive director during the planning stages for the new facility, she says site visits were made to an Oregon humane society and other operations across the country. "Now that the building is under construction, my goal is to look around the country to see what kind of programs we can implement to benefit the community," Morgan says. Training and family programs will make use of outdoor space and other education facilities. Construction on the new Humane Society facility is on schedule and Morgan says they should be able to move in by Nov. 5. "Grinder Taber Grinder has promised me that it will be ready by my birthday," Morgan says.


Farnsworth adding spec building at Distriplex
Memphis Business Journal - June 9, 2006 by John Scruggs

Farnsworth Investment Co. is developing a 225,000-square-foot speculative industrial building at Distriplex Farms, a distribution park near Hickory Hill and Holmes Road. Despite selling off its 1.8 million-square-foot portfolio to investment group Net Magan in 2005, Farnsworth stayed on as lessor and developer of the properties and vacant land. Farnsworth partner Michael Mullis says the company brought in NAI Saig Co. to market the new industrial space and more.

Hank Martin and Eddie Saig will be marketing existing buildings, property and the spec building in the Net Magan portfolio. Construction on the spec building will begin in the next 60 days and Mullis says the project could be completed by the end of the year. He estimated total cost of the project at $10 million.

Martin says the project is a continuation of what Farnsworth does best. "They have always been able to fill that niche in small- to medium-size warehousing," he says. "This concept is a 225,000-square-foot building that can be multi-tenanted." Martin says the larger industrial buildings that have been built over the past 5-7 years have left a void in the marketplace. Smaller tenants that move into large industrial buildings end up with space that feels like a bowling alley, being long and narrow, he says.

The best-case scenario for the new property would be three 75,000-square-foot tenants, Martin says. "This building is for smaller tenants in the market for a high-quality, new warehouse distribution facility," he says. In keeping with the same type of industrial development that Farnsworth has done in the past, tenants will be able to tailor the building to their needs, such as building out significant office space at the front of the property. "Looking at our portfolio, our tenants tend to have more office build out," Mullis says. "This building will lend itself to tenants who might want to have a more corporate feel to their space, with parking in the front and trucks in the back."

Players involved in previous Farnsworth projects are on board for the new Distriplex Farms building. Architect Brady Moore, civil engineers the Reeves Firm, structural engineer Bob McCaskill and contractor Grinder, Taber & Grinder, Inc., are working on the project. "It's essentially the same team we've been working with for years," Mullis says. "With the addition of Net Magan and Saig."

Grinder, Taber & Grinder has been working with Farnsworth since the 1970s, says Fred Grinder, vice president. "They are a top quality group of people and we've been fortunate to have a working relationship with them for all of these years," he says. "They have the same philosophy as we do -- work with quality people and produce a quality product."